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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wooden Shjips Sign to Thrill Jockey for "West," Continue Trend of S.F. Bands on Chicago Labels

Posted By on Tue, May 3, 2011 at 3:34 PM

click to enlarge wooden_shjips_west.jpg

Having already carried out a vital inquiry into whether we San Franciscans are too obsessed with our brilliant little garage/psych/vintage rock scene (answer: yes, but deservedly so) let us now ponder this: What's with all the S.F. bands on Chicago labels?

We ask specifically because of today's news that local psych mischiefs Wooden Shjips have signed to Chicago's Thrill Jockey records for their next album, West, which is due out August 16.

Let us make a brief aside here to explain West, whose gorgeous cover art you will find above. Says the label:
The overriding theme for the album (as indicated by the title) is the American West, and all of the mythology, romanticism, and idealism that it embodies. The band members grew up on the East Coast, so for a long time the history and literature of the West was an abstraction and a fascination for them. Part of the allure of the West, which is part of the myth, is the concept of Manifest Destiny, the vastness, and the possibilities for reinvention, which is not to say that is what each song is specifically about, but it was very much an undercurrent during the songwriting of the album. The artwork also touches on the same theme by using an iconic structure that is both a gateway in a literal and metaphorical sense.

Aha, well, cool.

Now back to our original point: In addition to Wooden Shjips, Thrill Jockey -- a small and highly respected label -- is home to Moon Duo (which shares member Ripley Johnson with Wooden Shjips), avant-minimalists Barn Owl, engineer/producer/musician Phil Manley (of Trans Am/Fucking Champs/Jonas Reinhardt fame), and electro-dance duo Mi Ami -- all of which are, were, or tend to be based in the Bay Area.

But that's not all. Drag City, another respected Chicago indie, recently signed local grunge-punk engine Ty Segall for his new record. It's also home to distressed-rock experts Sic Alps and folk songstress Joanna Newsom. All of these artists are based in S.F. or the Bay Area. Segall previously put out records on the Memphis label Goner, and some of these artists have released music on both Thrill Jockey and Drag City.

So what's the story? We don't really have an explanation for why so many West Coast bands are finding homes on Midwestern labels. (Do you?) But when we figure it out, we'll let you know.

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Ian S. Port @iPORT, and like us at

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